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Collection Reference Number GLC00390
From Archive Folder Documents Relating to 1783 
Title George Washington to Henry Knox on how to respond to the Newburgh Conspiracy
Date ca. 12 March 1783
Author Washington, George (1732-1799)  
Recipient Knox, Henry  
Document Type Correspondence
Content Description This letter uses oblique language (apparently chosen to avoid its detection by Newburgh conspirators) to call for a meeting of Generals Henry Knox and Jedediah Huntington: "I should be glad to see you & General Huntington at Dinner but be here earlier. The General Orders of yesterday will shew you upon what footing the meeting stands; & when I see you I will assign the reasons for it." That meeting was to discuss an anonymous address to the officers, calling upon them to attend a meeting and to threaten Congress. Washington's "General Orders of yesterday" asked his officers not to hold an unauthorized meeting but to wait for a later one. Presumably at the private meeting with Knox and Huntington, Washington discussed how to respond to the threat. At the public meeting with the officers, held on March 15, Washington gave his famed Newburgh Address and appealed to the honor and sacrifices of the officers in the cause of liberty. After Washington left the meeting, Major General Henry Knox proposed a resolution expressing the confidence of the officers in the justice of Congress, and repudiating the anonymous circular. (Presumably, also at the private meeting with Washington, Knox and Huntington, the principles in the resolution were drafted.) The resolutions were carried without dissent and America was saved from a military coup.
Subjects President  Revolutionary War  Military History  Mutiny  Newburgh Conspiracy  Soldier's Pay  Continental Army  
People Knox, Henry (1750-1806)  Washington, George (1732-1799)  Huntington, Jedediah (1743-1818)  
Place written Newburgh, New York
Theme The Presidency; The American Revolution; Creating a New Government; Government & Politics
Sub-collection The Gilder Lehrman Collection, 1493-1859
Additional Information Notes: Apparently unpublished. In this oblique letter, Washington calls for a confidential meeting with Generals Henry Knox and Jedediah Huntington to formulate a response to the Newburgh conspiracy, a plot by a group of officers to force the army's will upon Congress. The "General orders of yesterday" refers to Washington's orders telling his officers not to attend an unauthorized meeting but to wait for another. An anonymous circular dated March 10, written by Colonel Walter Stuart, in which it was proposed that the officers refuse to disband when the war ended if the Congress did not meet their demands. At the authorized meeting on March 15, Washington made a dramatic appeal to his officers and warned them how close the plot came to creating a military dictatorship. He appealed to their honor and their sacrifices. (See GLC 2624 for a contemporary transcript of the documents in the episode.) After he left the room, the officers voted upon resolutions, proposed by Major Generals Henry Knox and Israel Putnam, to express their confidence in the justice of Congress and to repudiate the "infamous propositions… in the late anonymous address." Carried without dissent, they pledged themselves to follow civil authority. The Newburgh conspiracy was America's closest brief encounter with military rule. Signer of the U.S. Constitution.
Copyright The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
Module Settlement, Commerce, Revolution and Reform: 1493-1859
Related documents Copy of papers relating to the Newburgh Conspiracy, inlcuding General Washington's address  
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